Posts

Showing posts from August, 2008

Slimmer Waistlines Protect from Stroke

Image
According to the results of a new study, increased waist to hip ratio, a marker of abdominal obesity, significantly increases the risk of having a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack, or “mini-stroke”). Past studies have documented belly fat as a risk for heart disease and heart attack, but researchers haven’t been certain if increased waist circumference also affects stroke risk. The study results are published in the August 14 Online First issue of Stroke.

Increased body mass index (BMI) has been associated with the development of heart disease, but research has shown abdominal fat mass is a stronger predictor of heart disease and heart attack risk. Until now, it hasn’t been certain whether abdominal obesity affects stroke risk. First author Yaroslav Winter, MD, from Klinikum Mannheim at the University of Heidelberg, Germany say, "Thus, data on the role of abdominal obesity for stroke are limited and completely lacking for transient ischemic attacks."

To determine the e…

Brain Re-Training Helps Patients Decades after Stroke has Occurred

Image
According to research from Johns Hopkins, the brains of stroke victims can be re-wired by walking on a treadmill, years after stroke has occurred. According to Daniel Hanley, M.D., professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, "This is great news for stroke survivors because results clearly demonstrate that long-term stroke damage is not immutable and that with exercise it's never too late for the brain and body to recover."

The study, published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, shows that it’s not necessary for stroke patients to give up the fight against disability, negating the theory patients must just learn to adapt to short-term improvements in functional ability.

The study, conducted by scientists at Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Maryland VA Medical Center at their Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC), have been developing a treadmill protocol…

Calcium With or Without Vitamin D Provides Bone Protection

Image
According to August 25 issue of The Lancet, people over age 50 can prevent osteoporosis with or without calcium combined with Vitamin D. Benjamin M.P. Tang, MD, from the University of Western Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, and colleagues performed an analysis of study trials to determine if calcium with or without Vitamin D prevents fractures and osteoporosis.

Searching databases, and handpicking studies, Dr. Tang’s team identified 29 eligible studies that included 63,897 people treated with either Calcium, or Calcium combined with Vitamin D for an average of 3 ½ years. Eligibility requirements included those over age 50. Fractures of all type and percentage of bone mineral density change were used as primary outcomes.

In 17 trials involving 52,625 people taking either Vitamin D with Calcium or just Calcium, fractures were noted, but the risk was reduced by 12%. Decreased bone loss was seen in 23 trials, involving 41,419 subjects. Greater compliance with Calcium intake yi…

Obesity Causes Unhealthy Fat Cells say Researchers

Image
Compared to lean people, obese people have unhealthy fat cells. According to a study published in the September issue of Diabetes,there are differences in fat between lean and obese people at a cellular level,which may explain why obesity is associated with a greater incidence of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Researchers from Temple University found disruptions in key enzymes that regulate glucose and protein synthesis when compared to fat examined in lean subjects.

Laura H. Carnell Professor of Medicine and chief of endocrinology, Temple University says, "The fat cells we found in our obese patients were deficient in several areas.”They showed significant stress on the endoplasmic reticulum, and the tissue itself was more inflamed than in our lean patients." Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is responsible for protein synthesis, production of steroids, and glycogen production and storage. The researchers examined the tissue by way of biopsy from six obese and six lean patient…

Research Shows Berries Normalize Cancer Causing Genes

Image
Researchers from Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center have discovered that black raspberries slow the development of cancer causing genes, restoring them to normal activity. The study results suggest “that a mixture of preventative agents, which berries provide, may more effectively prevent cancer than a single agent that targets only one or a few genes,” according to lead investigator Gary D. Stoner, PhD, professor of pathology, human nutrition and medicine at OSUCC.

The study results, published in Cancer Research also identified 53 genes that may be responsible for the early development of cancer, potentially leading to targeted chemotherapeutic agents.

For three weeks the scientists fed rats either a 5% diet of freeze-dried black raspberry powder or a regular diet. During the three weeks, one-half of the rodents in each group were injected with N-nitrosomethylbenzylamine, a cancer promoting enzyme while they continued with the designated diets.

When the scientists exam…

Olive Leaf Extract Found to Treat Mild Hypertension in "Twins Trial"

Image
According to a new trial, EFLA®943 (a specially prepared olive leaf extract), can help lower blood pressure in individuals with mild hypertension. Previous studies have documented several health benefits of olive leaf in animals. The results of previous studies show that olive leaf extract exhibited antiviral, antimicrobial, and anti-HIV properties, as well as thyroid stimulating capabilities in rats. Now researchers from Switzerland and Germany have tested the benefits on humans.

Scientists have also documented the protective effect of olive leaf following X-Ray radiation, surmising that it is a potent scavenger of free-radicals. Olive leaf is rich in polyphenols, one of the most plentiful anti-oxidants found in foods. The benefits of polyphenols extend to cardiovascular health, helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, preventing atherosclerosis.

The current study, deemed the the “Twins Trial”, provided treatments to 20 pair of identical twins, using either placebo, or 500 to 10…

Probiotics Dramatically Boost Infection-Fighting Blood Cells - Study

Image
According to a new study from Ireland, the human probiotic bacterial strain, Bifidobacterium infantis, (also known as Bifidobacterium lactis), has been shown to benefit the whole body by boosting immunity and reducing inflammation. Probiotics are well researched and are beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract, but the new study proves that the benefits extend beyond gastrointestinal health. The report was published in the August issue of the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Pathogens

Dr. Liam O'Mahony, lead investigator of the study explains, "Inflammation is a major factor in a number of chronic diseases affecting millions of people and can cause an unwanted impact on healthy tissue.”Past research has shown that the probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 can positively impact the body's immune defense3, and this most recent data suggests that its benefits are not restricted to the gastrointestinal tract."

The body’s ability to fight infection is accompanied by inf…

Researchers Tackle MRSA Using Cannabis Extracts

Image
Marijuana has long been associated with having potent anti-bacterial properties, but paradoxically, marijuana abuse has been associated with an increase in opportunistic infection. According to a new study, published August 6, 2008 in the Journal of Natural Products, cannabis has powerful antibiotic properties against several forms of MRSA strains, “of clinical relevance.”

In the 1950’s, topical preparations from cannabis sativa were explored for treating skin and mouth infections and for tuberculosis treatment. Recent research shows that both psychotropic (THC) forms, as well non-psychotropic forms of cannabis might be used as antibiotic. The current researchers isolated THC, CBD, and CBG from three strains of cannabis sativa to produce a single major cannabinoid. Powder was extracted from the plant, heated, and the active ingredients were then extracted and purified. The researchers then used MRSA cultures to test the effectiveness of the purified cannabis extracts - “All compounds …

APA says Recommended Mental Health Care not Reaching Most Youth

Image
According to a report from the American Psychological Association (APA) task force, 116th Annual Convention, most youth with mental health disorders are not receiving recommended care. Task force chair, Anne E. Kazak, PhD, director of the department of psychology at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, in an interview with Medscape Psychiatry, says "A variety of interventions have been developed that are quite effective for treating children with different disorders, and the challenge becomes getting these out into practice."

The problem lies in the misconception that mental health disorders might merely the result of poor parenting - that a child is “inherently bad”, or will “grow out of it”, according to Robert L. Findling, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, in Cleveland, Ohio, and consultant for Medscape Psychiatry.

The task force, composed of seven members…

Don’t be Duped by Food in Small Packages – Study Shows You’ll Eat More

Image
We all know we should reduce portion size to manage calories and weight gain. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, subjects who were offered potato chips from either large or small packages were more likely to eat from the smaller bags, but thought twice about even opening a big bag of chips. The message is that foods offered in small packages might dupe consumers into believing they are reducing their “hedonistic consumption” of snacks by choosing smaller portions.

Authors of the study believe consumers might think small packages offer “innocent pleasures: when in fact, they’re more tempting. It’s a sneaky way to get food to your mouth, as most health conscious people would indeed think twice about buying a big bag of cookies, chips or a bucket of ice cream.

Authors Rita Coelho do Vale (Technical University of Lisbon), Rik Pieters, and Marcel Zeelenberg ( Tilburg University, the Netherlands) say, "The increasing availability of single-serve and multi-pac…

Mind Body Therapy Provides PTSD Relief to War Exposed Children

Image
According to results of a trial, children enrolled in a twelve-week mind body program experienced significant and long-lasting symptomatic relief from PTSD. The results mark a first-ever trial treating a traumatized population without using drugs. The children enrolled in the study experienced PTSD following the war in Kosovo, and all showed decreased levels of avoidance, flashbacks, nightmares and numbing, all symptoms of stress, immediately and three months following the program.

Investigators at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, in Washington, DC enrolled the children in a twelve-week program, delivered by trained individuals rather than healthcare workers. Principal investigator James Gordon, MD, to Medscape Psychiatry, says, "We've shown this approach produces statistically significant reductions in symptoms of PTSD in a severely traumatized population. Importantly, we've also shown that it can be effectively delivered by trained individuals who don't necessaril…

Public Awareness Spurs Development of Organic Pesticide

Image
Public demand for natural insecticides has lead researchers to develop a new organic pesticide, obtained from the giant knotweed plant. Pam G. Marrone, Ph.D., presents her report at the 236th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, highlighting the development of the biopesticide that is safe to humans, animals and the environment. The product is expected to be available in October for conventional growing purposes, and in 2009, a new formulation will be available to organic farmers.

The giant knotweed grows along the East Coast and other areas, and is indigenous to Japan. The plant bloom from July to October, and can grow to over twelve feet tall. The scientists say the plant has the ability to innately fight diseases such as powdery mildew, and bacteria that invade fruits, vegetables and even garden ornamentals, as well as mold. The active compounds indigenous to the plant act as an alarm system, alerting plants to use their natural defenses.

Marja Koivunen, Ph.D., direct…

Scientists “Sniff Out” Skin Cancer with the Wave of a Wand

Image
A rapid, non-invasive test for skin cancer may allow rapid and early diagnosis through “odor profiling”. Just like in the Star Trek series, scientists from the American Chemical Society have developed a scanner that can be waved above the skin to “sniff out” odors given off by suspicious cells, even before skin changes develop. The findings were presented at the of the American Chemical Society’s 236th national meeting.

Michelle Gallagher, Ph.D., and colleagues, took their cues from the ability of trained dogs to detect skin tumors by way of their different odor. Dr. Gallagher, an analytical chemist who conducted the study while working as a post-doctoral researcher says, "Researchers have speculated that tumors give off different odors, but we're the first to identify and quantify the compounds involved in skin cancer odors. This research opens doors to potential new approaches to skin cancer diagnosis based on the profile of skin odors, hopefully leading to more rapid and …

Carbs and Sugar Damage Brain Cells that Regulate Appetite - Study

Image
A scientist at Monash University has discovered that free radicals degenerate brain cells that control appetite – and the damage is worse following ingestion of carbohydrates and sugar, leading to a vicious cycle that only promotes, rather than controlling hunger. Dr Zane Andrews, a neuroendocrinologist with Monash University's Department of Physiology explains, "The more carbs and sugars you eat, the more your appetite-control cells are damaged, and potentially you consume more." The result is weight gain that just gets worse with age, as cellular signals between the brain and appetite hormones become imbalanced.

Normally, a set of neurons, called POMC's tell us we are full. Free radicals attack POMC neurons. Ghrelin hormones, synthesized in the stomach, tell us when our stomach is empty. Disharmony between PMOC neurons and ghrelin hormones tells us we’re hungry when we’re really not, spawning a cycle of overeating from the miscues.

According to Dr. Andrews, “This …

Research Team Powers Up Tomatoes to Help Fight Disease

Image
Most of us know that tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant that helps fight cancer and other disease. According to Steven Schwartz, an investigator in Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center and a professor of food science and technology at Ohio State, his team has found a way to “power-up” the delivery of lycopene found in tomatoes. The result is a boost in the level of disease fighting lycopene in the blood stream. The trick, according the Schwartz is by “processing it and heating it in combination with added oil, we can change the shape of the molecule so it is configured in this bent form”…”a case where processing is positive in terms of enhancing absorption of lycopene.”

The scientists observed that when lycopene circulates in the human body, it is in a cis-isomer configuration, or a bent form. A red tomato is naturally in an all-trans configuration, displaying a linear form. Previous studies have shown that eating carotenoid rich foods, in conjunction with fat,…

Urban Dirt Responsible for Chronic Lead Poisoning in US Youth

Image
According to a new study, contaminated soil in older cities is found to be responsible for chronic lead poisoning in children in epidemic proportions, affecting hundreds of thousands of children. Study author, Gabriel M. Filippelli, Ph.D., professor of earth sciences and department chair at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis writes,, “Blood Pb (lead) levels above 10 μg/dL are disproportionately found in children living in many USA cities (15–20% in some cities compared to a national average of less than 2%) indicates that not all of the sources have been eliminated.”

He explains the problem further: “The blowing soil and dust young children ingest contains large amount of lead from lead paint and leaded gasoline deposited decades ago, and from industrial contamination. In Indianapolis, we found high levels of soil contamination. Many older urban centers, have lead poisoning rates that are 5 to 10 times the national average."

Chronic lead poisoning is more diffi…

Researchers Target Obesity - Turn Fat into Muscle

Image
Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have been experimenting with cells from mice, that are precursors to brown fat (good fat). They surprised themselves when they discovered they could actually produce brown fat in the lab, then turn it into muscle. They accomplished the task by knocking out a molecular switch, PRDM16, which regulates the creation of brown fat. By eliminating PRDM16 in brown fat cells, they were then able to convert the cells into muscle. The study is reported in the Aug. 21issue of the journal Nature.

Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, who led the research team says, the “huge surprise”, was that muscle precursor cells known as "satellite cells" can give birth to brown fat cells when they are controlled by PRDM16, the “master regulator" of brown fat development.” If the lab results can be applied to humans, the scientists may find a new application for treatment of obesity in humans. "I think we now have very convincing evidence that PRDM16 can turn cel…

Chewing Gum Gains Support for Speeding Recovery from Colon Surgery

Image
According a review published in the Archives of Surgery, evidence supports that recovery time following colon surgery is significantly faster when patients are given chewing gum. One of the first measures of successful outcomes after colon surgery is passing flatus, and having a bowel movement.

A common complication of colon surgery is paralytic ileus, a common result of bowel surgery where the bowel becomes immobilized, and gas and food cannot pass normally because peristalsis is absent or greatly diminished. Treatment requires expensive drugs, increased need for pain control, and invasive tubes to relieve pressure in the abdomen, involving increased cost, and additional stress to patients.

The authors of the current review analyzed data from past studies regarding the benefits of giving chewing gum following colon surgery to qualify their conclusions, researching databases from MEDLINE, Embase, Ovid, and Cochrane.

Studies included were required to “(1) compare abdominal surgery…

Stanford Researchers use Nature to Tackle Drug Resistance

Image
Most people are aware that drug resistance has been an ongoing problem for treating disease. Antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs have become less effective, as multi-drug resistance develops in humans. The challenge to researchers has been to find new ways to manage infection and other diseases. According to a new study, Stanford researchers have harnessed nature to find a way to get inside body cells by using arginine, an amino acid manufactured in the human body.

The scientists figured out how to accomplish their goal by honing in on guanidinium compounds, which are subunits of arginine, used naturally by cells to introduce foreign substances. The results breathe new life into existing drugs that are surrounded with arginine, thus “tricking” cell membranes into allowing medications to enter.

According to Paul Wender, the Bergstrom Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University, "Arginine-rich sequences appear to figure in the mechanisms by which many pathogens invade cells. In …

Cocoa Shown to Boost Brain Power

Image
Previous studies have shown that cocoa is simply good for your health. Dark chocolate has many benefits for reducing inflammation in the lining of the blood vessels, scavenging free radicals, and even lowering blood pressure. According to a new study, published online in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, cocoa again gets good grades - this time for boosting blood flow to the brain. Study participants who were given regular consumption of cocoa were shown to have increased blood flow velocity to the brain by ten-percent after two weeks of cocoa consumption.

Thirty-four healthy adults were evaluated for the study. Harvard medical scientists were able to measure blood flow velocity in the middle cerebral artery of the participants, using transcranial Doppler imaging, or ultrasound. The volunteers were aged 59 to 83. After just one week, blood flow velocity to the brain increased by 8%when compared to those who were not given cocoa.

The scientists feel the study may lead to a “pro…

Was There Life Before Polycarbonate Plastic? BPA Update

Image
The FDA has released a draft statement about Bisphenol A (BPA), the chemical used to make some water and baby bottles. The draft says, “Safe or safety means that there is reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under the intended conditions of use," but "complete certainty of absolute harmlessness is scientifically impossible to establish."

Consumer fears regarding the harmful effects of plastic bottles manufactured using Bisphenol A, has spawned much recent publicity. Though statements from plastic manufacturers and the FDA should allay some fears, the caveat remains - no one really seems completely certain. The FDA writes, “Based on our ongoing review, we believe there is a large body of evidence that indicates that FDA-regulated products containing BPA currently on the market are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause hea…

Mushrooms may Combat Obesity and Provide Essential Vitamin D

Image
Substituting mushrooms for beefy meals may be the key to cutting calories while increasing our intake of Vitamin D. According to preliminary research, led by Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, MD, Director of John Hopkins Weight Management Center, substituting mushrooms for lean beef can significantly cut calories – in addition, mushrooms seem to be very satisfying, at least according to input from the study participants.

The subjects of the current study were tested for four days, and provided randomly with meals of either beef or white button mushrooms in place of the meat. The meals consisted of sloppy joe, lasagna, chili and napoleon. Fat and calorie consumption over the four-day testing period was significantly higher in the beef group, the difference averaging 420 more calories and 30 grams of fat daily when compared to those who ate entrées with mushrooms versus beef. However, the group rated the mushroom meals as palatable, and satisfying. According to Dr. Cheskin, "The most intrigui…

Breakthrough Cancer Research from Rockefeller Scientists

Image
Rockefeller research scientists have found a new way to halt the proliferation of cancer cells, using protein-inhibiting agents called IAP’s (inhibitor of apoptosis protein). The findings are considered a break-through development toward improving cancer outcomes, and may lead to a new class of cancer therapy and prevention drugs. Self-destruction of cancerous cells can occur normally, and the process of amplifying the process in lab mice has yielded success for the research team. The study is the first to show exactly how IAP’s regulate cell death.

Hermann Steller, Strang Professor and head of the Laboratory of Apoptosis and Cancer Biology says, “We now can study how IAPs contribute to the development of cancer in a living animal and develop drugs to prevent or thwart the disease.” The role of IAP’s in preventing programmed cell death has been unclear. Dr. Steller explains, “Cancer cells thrive by disabling the molecular machinery that tells sick cells to die. By removing the RING, we…

Skin Moisturizer Study Confounds Researchers

Image
According to new research, rats who recevied applications of everyday skin moisturizers were found to develop skin tumors and accelerated tumor growth. The current study, led by Allan H. Conney, PhD, director of the Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory for Cancer Research and professor in the school of pharmacy at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., appears online in the August 14 issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

The scientists first exposed the mice, twice weekly, to UVB radiation for a period of 20 weeks, then applied four popular skin moisturizers (without UVB exposure) for the next several months. The already UVB skin damaged mice received topical applications of 100 mg of Dermabase, Dermovan, (discontinued in 2006), Eucerin Original Moisturizing, or Vanicream once a day, 5 days a week, for 17 weeks.

Ultimately, the mice developed skin tumors with accelerated growth rates. As a control, mice that were given a topical blend of a custom-made cream specially develop…

Higher Levels of Stress Found to Increase Allergy Misery

Image
Everyday substances, such as pollens, chemicals in the home, pet dander and mold are well-known allergy triggers - the list of possible allergens in humans is extensive, and difficult to pinpoint at times. According to a new study, even mild levels of stress and anxiety can cause allergy symptoms to linger, producing worse symptoms the day after exposure.

The findings were reported at the August 14 annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, in Boston, and come from researchers at Ohio State University, presented by Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, a psychology and psychiatry professor and stress researcher.

The study involved a small group of 28 volunteers with a history of seasonal allergies and hay fever who spent two and a half days at Ohio State – one day was a “low-stress day”; the other “high stress”. Traditional methods of introducing allergens via skin pricks were used to measure the severity of allergy response. More severe reactions were seen in those who were “moderately a…

American College of Cardiology Issues Air Pollution Statement

Image
According to a statement published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology(JACC), air pollution does contribute to cardiovascular disease, increasing the progression of atherosclerosis, and ruining the integrity of our blood vessels – in simple terms, the air we breathe promotes inflammation. According to the authors, “Inhalation of air pollutants affects heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure, vascular tone, blood coagulability, and the progression of atherosclerosis. Major mechanisms of inhalation-mediated cardiovascular toxicity include activation of pro-inflammatory pathways and generation of reactive oxygen species.”

The authors write that there is no question that some of the population is more susceptible than others to the effects of poor air quality, but they cite exhaustive studies that simply mount up - “Air pollution is directly linked to the adverse cardiovascular outcomes in the general population, and effects are seen at levels at or below existin…

MSG Strongly Linked to Obesity

Image
Physically active people with similar caloric intake, who use MSG for food seasoning, are found to be three times as likely to be overweight or obese when compared to those who don’t use MSG, according to a recent study. The findings are published this month in the Obesity journal.

Chinese men and women, ages 40 to 59, studied by researchers at UNC, Chapel Hill and in China, in three rural villages in North and South China, included over 750 subjects - 82% used MSG. Though they did not use commercially prepared foods, the scientists found that those who used the most MSG in their food were three times more likely to be obese than non-users. Since MSG is common in commercially prepared foods, the researchers purposefully chose men and women who prepare their own food in order to measure the effects.

According to Ka He, M.D., assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health, "Animal studies have indicated for years that MSG might be associated w…

Spiritual Practice and Prayer Prevalent in Cancer Survivors

Image
According to new data published online August 4 in Cancer, a significant number of cancer survivors use complementary methods of health care (CM) in conjunction with conventional medicine. A 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) revealed that 36% of 31,044 survey respondents used at least one form of CM during the previous year. The percentage jumped to 62% when prayer was included as a complementary therapy. Included in the respondents were 1904 cancer survivors - 40% of whom used at least one form of CM during the previous year. The survey also found that 62% of cancer survivors polled used prayer for healing. Spiritual practice and prayer were found to be the most prevalent practices used of the 19 complementary methods studied.

Past studies have focused on the use of complementary methods practiced by patients during the cancer treatment period. The current study authors sought to address CM “use further along the cancer continuum”.

White, higher income survivo…

Researchers Find Novel Approach for Curbing Drug Addiction

Image
Researchers have found a unique way that may curb drug seeking behaviors and drug addiction. Scientists, in studying rat behavior, have found that blocking a chemical receptor in the brain eradicates drug-associated memories, thus reducing drug cravings. The process is called reconsolidation. The research is published in the August 13 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The research team used rats, providing them with cocaine and using light to bring about an association with the drug. When the scientists turned on the light, but provided no cocaine, the rats performed the tasks themselves to activate the light. When a chemical was given that blocked the action of the brain receptor, the rats stopped trying to obtain cocaine. One treatment lasted up to four weeks. In the lab, success in eliminating the rat’s behavior occurred when the chemical blockade was administered just before the “reactivation phase” – in this case, just before the research team turned on the lights.

The autho…